Archives for the month of: August, 2017

Today was a three hour faculty meeting.  I couldn’t even tell you what all we heard about, although all of it was (no doubt) vital.  We heard about what tech platforms will be discontinued, which will be coming on, who’s new in the building, what the bell schedule will be for extended advisory, oh me oh my.  If we taught our classes the way they run faculty meetings.  .  .

But I know they’re doing their best with directives from above.  The point is that it’s all disorienting and confusing yet somehow we have to get ready to meet our kids.  Then add to that our A.L.I.C.E. training, which means we watched videos on our computers about how to climb out a window if an armed intruder tries to kill us and our kids.  No kidding.  A.L.I.C.E.  stands for Alert, Lock-down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.  Such is the first day back for teachers.

And that’s all important.  I’m not suggesting that any of it was wasted: it’s just hard.  They know it’s hard.  They wish we could talk about education.

As my principal did.  He ended with a plea: we’re here for the kids.  All of this was about how to make it better for kids.  Even A.L.I.C.E. is about kids.  No matter what we seem to be talking about, what we’re really talking about is kids.

That can be hard to remember, but it’s always true.  In the midst of all of it, don’t forget what we’re here for.  They’re all just somebody’s kid.

K feeds Zoe

(Note: when overwhelmed, it helps to cuddle a baby)

 

The house we used to live in had a skylight in the living room, and outside that room there grew a number of mature trees.  One day, my grandson, who was then about 3 years old, said to me, “Mimi, circles are here.”  I had never noticed that the sun, when filtered through leaves (as if they were a pinhole camera), projects itself in circles of light.  Here is the best photo I can find to show you what I mean if you haven’t noticed this before:

Related image

That dappling, if you could see it without the texture of the ground, is made up of circles.  I had lived in that house for years and never noticed it.  It took the fresh attention of a little child to see it.

We used to lie on our backs and watch them shift around when the breeze stirred the leaves.  It was Zen T.V.  Very beautiful.  One day a cloud came and covered the sun and the circles vanished, and then, as the cloud blew across the sky, they came back.  My grandson said to me, “Do it again!”  As if I had the power to move the clouds.

It was very strange to me that I had never seen them, that I needed his help to see what was happening in my own house so frequently– and I have never stopped loving those circles, whenever they appear.

Yet another miracle of the eclipse is this:

Circles are cescents

The circles became crescents.

I couldn’t tell you why this is so lovely to me.  Partly it has to do with having been taught to see them by my beloved little boy, partly it has to do with beauty and mystery hiding right before our eyes, as much as to suggest that the world is far more exquisite than we have power to imagine or perceive.

But one thing is for sure: teaching involves making these overlooked marvels visible to our kids whose lives, we hope, will forever contain a little more of the numinous than they did when they arrived.

It’s all about the noticing.  Thank you, A., for teaching me to notice the circles.

Sometimes you see something and you know you’ll be talking about it in class one day.  This one struck me as highly useful.

Picture a beautiful summer day and I’m walking on a sidewalk on a quiet, not heavily traveled street, on my way back from walking the labyrinth.  Outside the Michener Museum, a car stops.  The driver, a woman on a cell phone, makes no effort to pull over and make room for another car, but there’s nobody behind her.  She is dropping off her daughter, as I supposed, who is in the passenger seat, texting or handling some kind of business.  Someone comes up behind them.  The two women don’t see that car.  The car waits a little bit, and then gives a little toot on the horn as it pulls around them.  The woman looks up from her phone and puts her hand out the window to give them the finger.  I hear both her and the daughter say something angry, but I didn’t catch the specifics.  The daughter gets out of the car and crosses the street to go to maybe a job at the Michener and the mother roars off in the car, angry and nettled.

If the woman had pulled over, or even into the adjacent parking lot, she and her daughter could have had some quiet to handle their business and not trouble anyone.  So why not do that?  She set herself up for an unpleasant interaction.  She did everything she reasonably could to guarantee a rotten start to her day.  The car behind her wasn’t behaving aggressively.  They just wanted to get where they wanted to go, along a public street.

That seemed to me a perfect example of how placing yourself at the center of the universe will teach you that everyone is a jerk and out to get you.  But if you see the world as full of reasonable people who all have stuff to do, you pull over and they go around you and you’re happy for them and they for you.

Consideration is its own reward.  Selfishness is its own punishment.  I plan to use this story with my students.  Feel free to adopt it if it’s a parable for your classroom, too.

Image result for michener museum

(It happened right about here.)

As I mentioned, I went to see the eclipse.  My brother had said months ago that this was an experience we would never forget, a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and worth all the driving it would entail.  So we drove.  It was my sister and brother-in-law and me.  We broke the trip in Roanoke, VA with a memorable dinner at the Three Little Pigs Barbecue, a restaurant in a strip mall that managed to nail it on food, service, ambiance, location, and regionality.

The next day we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, NC.  Beckham, the scruffy little rescue dog, found that the bbq had not entirely agreed with him.  We gave thanks for the beautiful cool mountain weather and rolled down the windows.

Arrival in Asheville and off to Biltmore, a Vanderbilt mansion on an unimaginable scale.  Go there and see Frederick Law Olmstead’s work as he could only imagine it– the trees are now what he planned they would be.  I wish I could bring him to life for one day to show him in its mature form what he dreamed and created.

Then a dilemma– do we chance traffic and congestion to go to the glider port in Benton TN to see our brother and meet up with old friends who were already there?  Or should we heed the warnings of quadrillions of cars on the road and just hop south a few miles?  We went for it, along the Nantahala river and some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, to arrive at the Chilhowee Gliderport.  This was what it looked like:

Glider port

(That’s my sister in white, walking Beckham.  He feels a lot better now).

People were parked all along those trees there– maybe 300 or so?  And here was some pre-game celebration:

Corona tailgate

Coronas, to honor what we hoped to see, from a dear old friend (none for Beckham).

Then we waited.  We told stories and jokes and passed the time with friendship.

Telling stories

 

Then a bite out of the sun, then a bigger bite. We kept on looking!

Look up

K looks up

Then a lot of it was covered and the world looked odd– not quite twilight, but not normal either, as if it were blowing up a storm but the leaves were the right side up and no cool wind.  Then most of the sun covered.  Nearing totality, it looked like a movie that was meant to look like nighttime but it was really filmed in the day and put through some kind of filter that was fooling nobody.  Then, Then.  .  . Then!  The glasses on, the glasses off, and “Oh my God” on a loop– ohmigodohmigodohmigod.  The “diamond ring”, the darkness, the corona like an image of the Star of Bethlehem, a sense of cool, or was it chills?  I wanted to be alone so I could just cry and everyone around experiencing the same.  “Bailey”s Beads”– a pink jewel at 5:00 on the rim, pulsing.  .  .  Then the whole thing repeated on the other side.

daytime darkness

There’s no point in trying to sum it up.  It’s unsummable, numinous, ennobling.

Nature is the first and best teacher.  She knows that if you inspire awe, the rest will follow, as the night the day.

And when you’ve learned it, there you are with one another, closer than you were before.

all of us

Closer with family, when your brother was the one who told you to go and your sister who traveled all the miles with you.

3 siblings

Closer with the sweet family who took the photos and made it better by being there.

sweet fam

Closer with the world and all that’s in it and around it, including the sun, which I’ll never look at quite the same way again.

Would it be possible to imagine bringing awe into the classroom?  To re-envision our work as teachers as inspiring awe and fostering connection among seekers?

Who knows?  All I know is that I saw the moon pass across the sun and darkness fall in the afternoon.  And it made life better.

 

Hi, readers.  Are there 2 or 3 of you now?  Yay!

Today I returned from the eclipse, which I saw near Benton, TN– more on that later.  But I did want to let you know that I have you much in mind as we think about bidding summer farewell and undertaking our vocation and life’s work, for which, I hope, we’re a little more energized than we were in June.

This is just to let you know that I hope to write to you again this year, and maybe not go dark in November as I did last year.  I can’t promise anything.  Who knows what will happen?  Not me.  But as long as I don’t fall off the cliff of meaning into the chasm of dread, fear, and despair, I hope to write to you all the things I wish I had known when I was a newish teacher and all the things I’m still learning as an oldish one.

Interesting focus fact: my husband and I calculate that, if all goes according to plan, I have 9 more years of teaching.  I plan to retire 6/26.  For many teachers, the retirement date is a fetishistic countdown.  Not me.  While I am listing the travels I’d like to make in the off season (Hawaii, Venice, Yosemite) and the things I’d like to learn or ply or bathe in (guitar, weaving, more guitar), I’m also looking at these last 9 years as nearly a third of my career.  What will they be about?  What’s their special job?

And I know the answer!  (naturally):  trying to prepare newish teachers to bring their whole selves to the classroom and create a body of work, to make the world a better place through their cataract of love and knowledge.  My career goal has been to be able to know when I announce my retirement, colleagues, administrators, parents, and students will consider it a loss to my school.  And now I undertake to add to that career goal that I wrote to and for newish teachers in ways that helped them meet the same career goal.

So here we go, into the school year and for me, into the last third.  May we undertake it all with wisdom, courage, honesty, and enthusiasm.  But above all, with love.

https://i0.wp.com/oneyearbibleimages.com/swan_dive.jpg

(Image courtesy of the internet– “One Year Bible Blog”)

100 Day Journey

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Katherine Good

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